The King’s Banquet
Read Time: 6.5 minutes
As the story goes, the elite and wealthy are invited first, but they decline – pleased with themselves, they have no need of a King’s banquet. In their minds, success proves worth.
Rejected but not deterred, the King sends servants, “…out onto the roads [to collect]… everyone they could find, bad and good alike…” [Mtt 22:10].
The focus is on “participating in the celebration”, and the man without a wedding garment underlines the point – but what does that really mean… is it just about having a good time at a wedding?
Parables are always multi-layered. This banquet is more than a party to observe someone else’s commitment; the bride and groom in fact, are barely mentioned.
Accepting the invitation means more than just showing up, and the wedding garment is more than a dress-code – it is a symbol of the point of our faith: an open heart willing to participate in communion with God.
It is a sign of “metanoia” – the necessary change of heart and mind from where a transformation of outlook and behaviour begins.
The Gaze of Love is never broken from God’s side, but without an open heart to receive, God’s offer remains unanswered.
The man’s indifference and lack of response are not innocent passivity. Though he’s physically present, he refuses to open his heart – he refuses to “participate”.
‘Transformation’ is a verb. It begins with an acceptance of the invitation, but grows in an open heart; it lives when it’s acted upon.
And so, he was thrown out “…into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”
Seeing the King’s actions as God’s condemnation of the man and the others who refused to attend, fits well with a god of violence, quick to judge and harsh in condemnation.
Yet, the hall was filled with “good and bad alike”. Were the “good and bad” any better or worse than those who refused to attend, or than the man that rejected the garment?
Is this who our God is? – an arbitrary judge inviting good and bad to entrap and condemn – an easily offended deity, quick to judge and execute?
Is this the view from the Cross?
Ron Rolheiser: “What the cross tells us, more clearly than any other revelation, is that God is absolutely and utterly non-violent and that God’s vulnerability, which the cross invites us into, is a power for community with God and with each other.” *
The difference between those who refused the invitation and the garment, and the “good and bad alike”, is not moral character, it is willingness to participate in community and communion with God and with each other.
Jesus never condemned a sinner; He did have words for the “righteous” who thought they were not sinners.
The offer was a banquet of joy.
It starts with a heart willing to risk opening itself to God and others.
It leads to a celebration of growth and maturity in wisdom and love.
It ends only when this mortal life ends – yet even then, the banquet continues as our love is united with Love Eternal. Love cannot die.
We are free to choose. The outcomes of our choices are not a judgement we are condemned to, they are the consequence of the way we live our lives. Sin is its own punishment [Jer 2:19]**.
God’s banquet asks for “the wedding garment” of an open heart willing to participate in God’s Love Gaze – God will not force Godself on us.
It requires involving ourselves with God and with others.
It works in tending the seed of love God planted in our soul before we were born into this world.
When we do, the joy of the interaction becomes an exchange that transforms us in ways we cannot imagine.
It bears fruit in ways that we may never be aware of, but our soul has an awareness beyond our consciousness – and that is the sweetest and most nourishing of fruit.
Our growth in love is an endless process because it is God who is our spark of life and love. God’s love is endless and we are continuously invited into that endlessness.
The invitation is to grow that spark of love into a fire [Lk 12:49]***, and to share in the celebration and joy of it.
Life is about discovering – and living the truth that… Love is the only thing that grows when it is given away.
* Ron Rolheiser OMI, February 10, 2002, https://ronrolheiser.com/the-cross-as-revealing-the-non-violence-of-christ/
** Jer 2:19: “Your wickedness will bring its own punishment, your infidelities will bring you to book…”
*** Lk 12:49, Jesus: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already ablaze with fiery passion for God!”